The wedding industry is currently experiencing an unprecedented level of change as U.S. states recognizing same-sex marriage steadily increase. In October alone, the number of marriage equality states has risen to 30.
In anticipation of the inevitable surge in prospective couples seeking services for their same-sex wedding, professionals are taking the necessary steps to ensure they are prepared. The first question that may come to mind, however, is: What steps need to be taken?
Industry experts are in agreement that the first priority should be examining how one is presenting their company in the marketplace.
Kathryn Hamm, President of GayWeddings.com and co-author of The New Art of Capturing Love, shares, “The most important thing a wedding pro can do is to sit down and go through all of his or her materials--web ads, websites, directory listings, brochures, contract forms--and make sure that all of the language and imagery is inclusive of all couples.”
Hamm goes on to clarify that same-sex couples will be doing every bit of the same research as any other couple would. She notes, “If you want to say you serve modern couples, you must show it. So, take a look: do you only speak to 'brides'? If so, update that language to speak to 'engaged couples' or 'brides and grooms.'”
GET READY TO REFER A more challenging, yet equally imperative, step is then reviewing one’s current list of referrals to qualify which welcome the idea of working with same-sex couples.
Las Vegas wedding planner Brit Bertino of Brit Bertino, Event Excellence, first faced this challenge earlier this year while planning the destination wedding for TV One star Monifah Carter to her longtime girlfriend, Terez. The event itself had to move to Hawaii once it became clear the properties from the couple’s first location were not going to welcome Monifah and Terez.
“This was an eye-opening experience,” Bertino says. “I quickly realized that I would need to vet vendors I referred in the future to ensure my same-sex couples received the same welcoming experience other clients had in the past.”
Hamm agrees, adding, “Make sure that any pro on your referral list is ready, willing and able to serve gay and lesbian couples before you make that referral.”
OFFER WHAT THEY WANT Finally, evaluating one’s offerings and services will ensure that the appropriate needs of same-sex couples are being anticipated and met.
Robert Radifera of Robert Radifera Photography along with his wife, Lauren, were some of the first vendors at the courthouses in Charlottesville, Va., this month when the first same-sex couples married. Radifera spent the afternoon capturing the couples and before long, his phone was ringing from other couples requesting his services.
“It became clear that many of the couples were looking for a simple weekday ceremony,” Radifera notes. “The majority of our weddings tend to be all-day events so we promptly fine-tuned our own packages to better suit the needs of same-sex couples planning more laid back affairs.”
And finally, a genuine enthusiasm for this burgeoning market is always appreciated. Bertino, who gathered industry friends to join her in welcoming couples at the Clark County Marriage Bureau last week, agrees.
“From my experience, one of the biggest fears facing same-sex couples planning their wedding is that they won’t be accepted by vendors," she says. "So for me, it was an absolute necessity to join in the celebrations last week to send a clear message that the Las Vegas wedding community is ready to welcome them.”
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.